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What do Americans celebrate on Thanksgiving Day?

A family gathering for Thanksgiving dinnerA family gathering for Thanksgiving dinnerThanksgiving, or Thanksgiving Day, is a public holiday celebrated on the fourth Thursday of November in the United States of America. It has been celebrated as a national holiday every year since 1863. In that year, during the American Civil War, President Abraham Lincoln proclaimed a national Thanksgiving Day, to be celebrated on the final Thursday in November. Thanksgiving Day can be traced back to the 1621 celebration at Plymouth Colony in today's Massachusetts, where a group of religious refugees from England, known as the Pilgrims, invited the local Native Americans to a harvest feast.

"The First Thanksgiving at Plymouth" (detail)

First Thanksgiving

The First Thanksgiving was celebrated by the Pilgrims (religious exiles from England) at Plymouth Colony in present-day Plymouth, Massachusetts, after their first successful harvest in the New World in October 1621. When the previous year's harvest failed, members of the local Wampanoag Native American tribe taught the Pilgrims how to catch fish and grow corn, beans and squash. Attended by 90 Wampanoag and 50 Pilgrims, the feast lasted three days. 

Why is it traditional to eat turkey on Thanksgiving Day? Pilgrim Edward Winslow recorded in a letter about the famous “First Thanksgiving” meal in 1621, that there had been a “turkey hunt” before the dinner—although it is not thought that turkey was eaten at the meal.

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